Cold heartedly on October 14, 2011 Adam Robert, a toddler with albinism, was attacked and his thumb and two fingers brutally mutilated by merciless bandits out to sell his body parts to superstitious criminals who hide behind the spell casting beliefs and complications in judicial proceedings for in Tanzania, there is no law against witchcraft.
However, the chairman of the society, Ernest Kimaya, had promising news earlier last week when he announced that between 2010 and 2012 there has been significant drop in the criminal practice.
He attributed the dwindling cases of attacks and killings of albinos to legal measures taken against suspects and ongoing awareness campaigns by government and other stakeholders like non-governmental activist organisations.
Meanwhile, Adam, the mutilated boy, returned into the country from Vancouver, Canada and on Sunday morning after successful surgery procedures to replace the ligaments and restore his fingers to full function. The trip was facilitated by an organization that is in the forefront of activism against the cruel pitiless killings and mutations, Under The Same Sun (UTSS).
Santa Claus has over the years been the face of Christmas in the western world but thanks to mass media and light speed communication capabilities, Christmas as many other foreign traditions are receiving positive acceptance and increasingly gaining popularity all across Africa and Tanzania is no exception.
So, 10 days ahead of the big birthday, students of the Lake View English Medium School, Jelly’s and Golden Valley in Mwanza City were most joyful to receive a surprise visit by Santa Claus or more commonly “Father Christmas”.
The President and founder of Under The Same Sun (UTSS) an advocacy group for Persons with Albinism (PWA), Peter Ash was behind the red costume and white beard and escorted by his elves chanting “ho-ho-ho Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas…”
Adam’s brother, Salum was more than overjoyed with the gifts and the best of all been reunited with his brother.
“…this is a really good Christmas for me...”
A direct result of oppressive and discriminative traditions and cultures albinism has been for the past few years, a death sentence in Tanzania where at best, they face raw prejudice and at worst, they are hunted for their very body parts.
It is reported that more than 100 albinos have been violently attacked in Tanzania from 2006 to June of this year 71 died and 31 escaped, though most were maimed. The attacks are so brazen that the government has opened boarding schools for albino children for their own protection.
With nearly 1 in every 1,400 people in Tanzania been albino, or an estimated 170,000 in a nation of 45m the country has one of the highest rates of albinism in the world, 1 in every 3000 compared to Europe and America’s 1 in 20,000.
In fact, based on what is been referred to as the “founders effect" scientists believe that Tanzania and possibly other parts of East Africa as well, may be the birthplace of the genetic mutation that creates albinism. So by sheer numbers, the frequency of killings is higher in the country.
All is not lost, for weeks before the year comes to an end, Tanzania Albino Society (TAS) said it has registered only one case of violence against albinos compared to last year’s five about the same time.
As does the name of the activist organization reminds us all that we are, under the same sun, Adam’s return from surgery in Canada and his restored fingers, has great symbolic meaning and brings hope to other albinos and indeed to the entire nation, reminding us that challenges, in no matter what form or extremity, can, with determination and unity, be overcome.